Losing is never easy. But losing after being up 15 points on a last-second, three-pointer at the buzzer? That has the potential to be devastating.
And that is what happened to the Walnut Grove Gators in the Fraser Valley quarter-finals, as the No. 3 seed team lost to the No. 6 W.J. Mouat Hawks back on Feb. 19.
“It was disheartening,” admitted Walnut Grove coach Reid Taylor. “We played really well for the first 25 minutes of that game and then we started to fizzle out in the end.
“A lot of it came down to bad shot selection (and) we were getting out-rebounded like crazy, which can happen quite often to us.”
He was referring to the fact no Gator is over six-foot-three.
And while a loss such as that could have derailed Walnut Grove, it didn’t.
For one thing, they lost to a good opponent. This was the fifth meeting between the two highly-ranked teams with Mouat now holding a 3-2 edge. The Hawks may have been the sixth seed, but after knocking off the No. 3 Gators, they beat No. 2 Semiahmoo by eight and took No. 1 Tamanawis to overtime before losing by two.
Taylor said he didn’t have to give his team any sort of special pep talk before their next game.
“There really wasn’t much to say,” Taylor said. “It is pretty devastating in a lot of ways but we knew we could still qualify for provincials if we did what we needed to do.”
And that is exactly what the Gators did.
Facing a must-win game to stay alive, Walnut Grove responded two nights later with a 110-72 win over Guildford Park. They followed that up with a 111-102 win over Pinetree to guarantee themselves a spot at the upcoming B.C. 4A provincial championships, which run March 7 to 10 at the Langley Events Centre.
The Gators would finish fifth in the Fraser Valley thanks to a 64-62 win over Terry Fox on Feb. 25.
James Woods — who earned most valuable player honours in 2017 in helping the Gators win the provincial crown — was named to the Fraser Valley all-star team.
The seedings for the provincial championships will be released on Sunday (March 4) ahead of next week’s championships.
And sometimes a loss at the right time can serve a greater purpose.
“You never want to lose, but like we tell them, if you respond to it correctly, it can be a great learning experience,” Taylor said. “It is super cliche and corny, but if you respond and learn from what you did wrong, you are going to be better off for it.”